As we wrap up our Crossroads Career Top Tips, I’ll conclude with what’s become a significant favorite for me. As I share it with people, almost 100% of the time, the individual looking to create their Unique Distinctions doesn’t quite get it the first time, but once they get it, they are completely sold on the value of the exercise.
Think about how you would describe yourself by examining your background, experiences, other’s opinions about you, your abilities, values, skills, passions, gifts, and strengths. To sum this all up, make a list of some of these things you’ve identified about yourself – get as specific as you can. Think about the ways these distinctions come together to make you, well, YOU. Narrow your list down to what feels the most important or unique about you.
What are Your Distinctive “Features”
Here’s a short exercise to help bring all these attributes together. Picture this: You are the job candidate, and you’ve just entered my office. I am the hiring manager. As you came in, you noticed three other people sitting in reception waiting to see someone. Based on their dress, demeanor, and some anxious looks, you’ve deduced that they are potentially competitors…other job candidates. As it turns out, you are correct—and they are interviewing with me right after you for the same job for which you’re interviewing.
They all look like sharp, competent people. Now, what will you have to say that will distinguish yourself from your competitors? What are your distinctive “features” (thinking of yourself as a product you’re trying to sell) that will enable me, as the hiring manager (buyer), to not only remember you, but to pick you over them?
The reality is—you are unique! No one else in the world was created just like you! Psalm 139:13-14 says, “For You God created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” In addition to your DNA being unique, no one else in the world has the combinations of your personal history!
Well, you might say, here are a few attributes to describe me: “I’m a hard worker, a wonderful team player. I’m innovative, and I excel at figuring out complex problems!” That’s great, but the other three people are planning to say the same thing.
So, how can you, as the job candidate, best express your personal “features” in a way that’s distinctively clear and concise to me, the hiring manager? What I’ve found is that this little exercise is very difficult for people to do. As with many things in life, making the complex simple is an art form, usually accompanied by trial and error.
Unique Distinctions God has Gifted You With
Perhaps try this angle. What’s something that you possess that you are very glad you purchased? What are the features that motivated you to buy that particular model or brand? For example, my friend Steve owns a Tesla sedan. He loves that car! In fact, he’s named it the Millennium Falcon! If I asked him this question, here’s how he might describe it: It can go from 0-60 in 2.3 seconds. In fact, you can feel the G-force pressing you back into the seat. It’s a very sleek design with the external door handles flush within the body of the door. You push one end of the handle to have it pop out, so you can open the door. Inside, there is no door handle. It’s just a button you push to open the door. The dashboard is a 21” LED screen that rivals most desktop monitors, with all sorts of cool options to view what’s happening. Another feature is that when the car sits in the sun, there’s a little fan that flips on automatically to keep the electric battery cool.
The confluence of these features are ONLY found in a Tesla sedan. It is a one-of-a-kind automobile! Just like you are a one-of-a-kind person! Don’t sell yourself short with describing the wonderfully Unique Distinctions God has gifted you with! Here are some practical steps that may help you put together your Unique Distinctions:
1. Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you begin this exercise. Remember He wants you to be everything He created you to be! So He can certainly bring to mind the descriptors He’d like you to use!
2. Without judgment, start a page of bullet points with phrases that describe what you think your features are. Try to make them as specific and distinctive as possible, but with the main goal of getting words on a piece of paper. For example, for me, I was professionally certified as a CPA, and I have 25 years of HR experience. How many “retreaded” CPA’s do you know? Probably not many! So that could potentially be one of my distinctive features.
3. Once you have 25-30 words/phrases, go through and highlight those that don’t seem that distinctive. For example, anyone can say they have a “good work ethic,” so you can strike that off your list.
4. For those highlighted words, reflect why you wrote those words down. For example, perhaps you wrote “good communicator” because you have 10 years of professional internal and external communications functional experience OK, now that’s much more distinctive than “good communicator!” Good job!
5. With what you’ve now refined from general phrases into specific phrases, capture those on a clean piece of paper. Start to share them with some trusted friends and get their reactions. Perhaps ask them to circle the top 5 that they think best describes you. Additionally, they will probably have some different ideas, based on their perspective and how they view you. Embrace their ideas, as they will probably more closely resemble the lens of the hiring manager you’re trying to “sell” in that interview!
Now that you’ve gone through this exercise, what are those top 3 Unique Distinctions that help you sell what you can do best to help the company with what they need most? Remember, no one on the planet has been equipped to do what you do like you! BUT, you’ve got to be able to express your Unique Distinctions in a way that helps others clearly see what you do best to help them do what they need most. While we’ve described this exercise in terms of a job interview, your list of Unique Distinctions does not necessarily have to be job oriented. Ask God to reveal what He’s uniquely given you.
Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.